Age of Ultron

No time to really write anything this weekend, certainly not today. Too much running around. And I want to try to get my last few drawings done tonight.

But we did get The Avengers: Age of Ultron watched. Don’t worry, the following is my quick and spoiler-free review. Because nothing much to say.

I liked it, obviously. It was a lot of fun and I chortled many a time. A few classic moments. Interesting plot, with some fun twists and use of the in-universe rules and items and characters. Glorious action and plenty of BSTs.

Now, in my opinion it lacked the sheer excitement and impact of the first Avengers movie. There was no cheering or applause this time around. But a lot of that, I think, was simply a matter of this being an excellent continuation, not necessarily anything new. The Avengers movies may have – momentarily – reached maximum levels and stopped levelling.

This doesn’t mean there’s no potential for further uncapping of the level counter and whole new amazing vistas to open. Guardians of the Galaxy told me to shut my punk mouth where those sorts of thoughts were concerned. I can always be surprised and delighted. And I for one can’t wait to see what Ant Man and all the next round of movies have in store for us.

This was an excellent movie, if not quite so rich in Whedonosity as the first Avengers ensemble piece and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series we’re working through. Well worth a watch. This is by no means a complaint. It’s just a sign of how spoiled we’ve become.

There’s only so many times a movie franchise can keep on topping its previous efforts. That doesn’t mean the movies need to start over from a lower level. It just means that whatever happens next, we have to keep in mind that it’s going to be amazing.

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All Marvel, All The Time

Not much going on this weekend. Well actually there’s a lot going on – forest hike soon, then a birthday party, then board games, then a movie tomorrow – but not much to report right now.

ANZAC Day today, so I put up the ol’ flag. I always feel a bit funny putting up a foreign flag in our very Finnish piha. Even though I know our neighbours are family and super-cool, and are particularly respectful of our fallen veteran ancestors, it always makes me wonder if some angry perussuomalainen will stamp up and shout at me.

That’d be fun.

We finished watching Marvel’s Netflix original series Daredevil the other day, and started watching – at last! – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I have to say, it’s more fun. Right from the start, more fun.

But that’s the great thing right now. There’s so much range to the comic book genre. We get dark, interesting stuff like Daredevil – I will certainly watch the next season with interest, and some of the scenes were just glorious[1] – and then hilarious, fluffy Whedons-at-their-near-Whedonest stuff like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we don’t need to choose one or the other. Fantastic time to be a comics fan.

[1] The musical arrest montage was fun to watch, although that makes it sound Benny Hill (that would also have been funny). It was an operatic piece and very nicely choreographed.

Not sure where they’re heading with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’ve only seen three episodes so far. But I like it.

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Dirty Pause

Today I paid a visit to the office, just to catch up with everyone and also put my dirty paws on things.

Get your stinkin' paws off me you damn dirty ape.

I’ll just leave this here.

That is all.

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Yes, Thursday

That’s right, nothing much to add for today. haven’t really had a chance to sit still and think of anything to write about. No pressing issues, no amazing revelations.

Work going well. Clock is ticking but I’m waiting for feedback, and I work better under pressure. That comes next week.

This weekend, we’re playing the A Song of Ice and Fire board game, and checking out the new Avengers movie. Should be fun.

Today, in my spare time, I have mostly been playing with the scanner (getting my international driver’s license paperwork underway, as well as scanning in pics for the new book), and Gimp image editor. Would you believe, I have never used the airbrush function on an image editor? It’s brilliant!

Adobe Photoshop (before it got too expensive to own) had a smart blur that I thought was the best thing ever, but the airbrush is like a grown-up’s smart blur. It’s really making my sketches look tidy.

Should be able to finish the last ten drawings or so for the book in the next week. Looks like I’ll be pushing it for a May 1st release, but oh well. Soon, anyway. Can’t wait to get this one out.

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Don’t post anything with PostNord

Today has not been the greatest day ever so far. An endless night with an adorable, chirpy-arse one-year-old who just didn’t seem to know or care that it was 3:00am; mystery technical bugs at work; oncoming cold; and then there’s these cunts.

PostNord.

I have managed to piece together, from parcel tracking, that it must have been my dear well-meaning brother who has tried to send me a gift using these fucking rodeo clowns as couriers. He is travelling, and the package came from Turkey which was one of his known locations and to be honest I don’t know anyone in Turkey who would send me a package otherwise.

PostNord may have been his only option.

Now, I don’t run a package-delivery and logistics business, so I can’t pretend to be an expert. But I would imagine that (a) reading the address on the package and (b) getting the package into the hands of the people living at that address are the main things you need to do in order to do this job. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you also need to (c) be great at arranging bunches of flowers into humorous dick-shapes. Maybe they’re fucking awesome at that. I hope so, because they suck at (a) and (b).

The first I hear from these guys, it is when we return from dinner at my cousin-in-law’s place on Friday night, about 10:30pm. There is a note stuffed in our door saying, basically, “we tried to deliver a package, we missed you, call to arrange a new time.”

Fair enough. Happens a lot.

Now, first of all, their delivery times are 16:30-21:00. This is actually pretty cool, if you work. It means they’ll come in the evening and drop off your stuff. Not sure who they were expecting to be home at that time on a Friday, but okay. Let’s be honest, under normal circumstances we would have been. We’re not that social.

They also sent me a “we missed you” text message, but my phone was dead at the time so obviously I didn’t get it. No foul to PostNord in this case.

Then, they tried to deliver again. Without us calling them.

This time, it must have been at about 11:00am on Monday morning. Because I was out for my walk when I got a text message, same as the last time.

The text message included a number to call and arrange a new delivery time, so I tried to call it. I ended up in a queue. And the recorded voice told me I was being charged for waiting in the queue.

So I hung up and decided, quietly and non-judgementally, that they were cunts. It happens.

I went to their website to lodge a complaint. Or just a suggestion. Pursuant to point (b) above, I thought, why not send a text message before you come to deliver a package? A text message the package recipient can reply to and say “sure, thanks, I’ll expect you in an hour.”

Because sending one after you’ve missed us? Pointless and infuriating. Especially since you actually leave no recourse to reschedule.

postnord (1)

Oh yeah, this is an illustrated journey. Although the illustrations are mostly also text.

The website also offered an electronic means of rescheduling your delivery, but you had to login with your tracking number (which I had used to determine that this mystery package was coming from Turkey), and a barcode (not provided anywhere, but which I have since tracked down to the wad of paper they stuffed in my door on the first failed delivery attempt). So, no login, no electronic reschedule.

postnord (1a)

I may have been a little rude about it, but I didn’t send this to them.

So, I did finally get a response from their customer service team, and got around to trying to reschedule the stupid delivery. That’s when this started to happen.

postnord (2)

postnord (3)

postnord (4)

postnord (5)

postnord (6)

postnord (7)

postnord (8)

Needless to say, I will not be recommending PostNord to anyone who wants anything delivered anywhere, ever.

I don’t care how good their floral cocks are.

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The Brute

They let him out of the cell before breakfast rolled around, which to Drago’s mind was a big darn shame. Breakfast in the drunk tank was traditionally a bowl of low-grade printed paste that consisted of little more than warm grease with gravel in it, together with a spongy piece of something that would be bread if it came from a better fabricator. If you left it a while, the gravel softened until you could grind it with your teeth, at which point the gravel revealed itself to be chunks of salt.

It was nothing short of the best hangover medicine you could get. Almost worth going to the tank for in the first place.

Drago sighed when the corrections officer opened the cell door and stood looking down at him with evident and grossly unprofessional nervousness.

“Unclench, son,” he said quietly, and swung his legs off the side of the bunk. He still felt a residual fizz in his joints, as well as an insistent sensation that he was actually somebody else controlling the huge, admittedly-fragrant body in the cell using some sort of sophisticated remote control. The universe was a fabulous game when you were juiced. One that was extremely difficult to finish without ending up in the tank. “I’m the one who did bad things.”

The officer cleared his throat, but to his credit did not step back when Drago hauled himself upright. If he had, Drago was still just juiced enough to have decided he was going to rush him. Just for fun. “Exit interview.”

“Yeah,” Drago said glumly, “I know.”

Humans had gotten used, on a cultural and social level, to being the tiny ones. The small, aggressive, primitive, posturing monkeys just seconds away from grabbing a handful of faeces and letting their feelings be known. In a room full of glacially-serene seven-foot-five Molren, a human could generally expect to do a lot of looking up, in every sense of the phrase. Add a freezer-suit-clad eight- or nine-foot aki’Drednanth or two into the mix and you really started looking like a midget. About the only smaller sentients out there – aside from the occasional diminuitive dumbler – were the robotic extensions, the giela, belonging to the Fergunak. Those were usually little more than shoulder-high to a human, although they made up for it with a confronting attitude, offensive decorations and the psychological weight of the colossal son-of-a-bitching shark two rooms over who was actually controlling the creepy little thing.

Drago ‘Brutan’ Barducci, at seven feet seven inches, was taller than most Molranoids and bulkier than all but the Bonshoon. Oh sure, Molranoids still had weight and speed and strength and agility and intelligence on him, but damn it if he didn’t have size. That was one victory on the statistics page that he’d take to his grave.

Still wasn’t above a bit of poop-flinging on occasion, though.

He stretched, rolled the last juice-sizzle out of his shoulders, and lumbered forwards. Now the guard did step back, but just to usher him politely down the corridor. Smart kid, he approved, noticing the way the officer kept out of arm’s reach and didn’t go for the rookie panic-grip on his weapon. Of course, Drago was pretty small bananas compared to a drunk-and-disorderly Bonshooni, and these lads would be trained to handle them. He ambled out of the cell and headed towards the interview rooms. He knew the way.

Barducci, given his enormity and able-esque physique[1], was often mistaken for a big, stupid brute. Indeed, his nickname – Brutan – was occasionally shortened to Brute, and most people thought that was what Brutan the Warrior had been anyway.

[1] It was often suggested[2] that he had been printed in a fabricator with slightly-warped size settings.

[2] Not to his face, but Drago had a way of finding these things out.

In fact, Brutan the Warrior had been a cunning tactician, a soldier of great deviousness and ingenuity, and had been possessed of a mind that was as keen-witted as it was ancient. The fact that he’d also had the body of a fuck-off enormous barbarian warlord had been … well, something of a joke on his Holy Brothers’ part, according to the stories.

Anyway, Drago considered it an entirely apt nickname precisely because he knew the mythology behind it. And just as the real Brutan had used his misleading appearance and martial might as a means of concealing his intellect from people who saw only the brute, so too did Barducci.

“Room seven,” the guard said from a regulation ten paces behind him, “coming up on your left.”

“Yeah,” Barducci said again, and stepped through the open door. His exit interviewer looked up, and Drago felt real surprise for the first time in … ooh, at least a month. “Skell,” he said. “Holy shit.”

The scruffy young man was sitting cross-legged on the cold metal tabletop of the interview desk, an organiser pad in one hand. He gestured Barducci curtly into the chair – a chair that had been placed, Drago noted, a solid fifteen feet from the desk, well out in the open space of the room.

“Barducci,” Skelliglyph said in a crisp, efficient tone.

“Why are you sitting on the Goddamn table?”

“Because if we both sat in the chairs you would loom,” Skell said. “I hate it when you loom. I don’t even like it when looms loom, and that’s all looms can actually do.”

“Still crazy as a shithouse rat, I see,” Barducci grunted, settling into the interviewee chair. This, like everything else in the compound, was designed to stand up to punishment from an overweight Bonshooni. It took Drago’s weight effortlessly.

“Now is that any way to talk to your exit interviewer?” Skelliglyph said in an injured tone, and tapped something onto his pad. “I’m putting down here that you are not adequately rehabilitated and that you pose a clear danger to civilian society.”

“Good. Can I go now?” Barducci started to rise. “I might still catch breakfast if I-”

“Not so fast. I’m also recommending you for a long-haul Corps mission. Best place for you, out in the black with a bunch of like-minded jarheads,” the young man – although he’d always been a young man, as long as Drago had known him, and that meant he couldn’t be a young man, not really – looked up with a half-smile. “I’ve got the forms here to get you off this drunk-and-disorderly, and reinstate your command credentials. Want to be my Chief Tactical Officer?”

“Do you want me to be?” Drago asked, duly logging his second instance of surprise in as many minutes, and then – because it was Çrom Skelliglyph – giving up on logging any subsequent instances for the foreseeable future.

“Obviously. And you want to get back into a command position, with full access to all the toys you love so much,” Skell raised the pad. “Can do.”

“What’s the catch?” Drago asked, preparing to stand up and walk out the moment Skelliglyph said there wasn’t one.

Skell didn’t play that way, though. It was one of the reasons Drago hadn’t turned straight back around and returned to his cell the moment he set foot in the interview room and saw the mad bastard sitting on the table. “The catch is, there’s someone we’re going to need to break out of prison.”

“I’m assuming, from the way you say that,” Drago said thoughtfully, “that there aren’t any forms on your pad to help with this one.”

“Oh, Hell no. This isn’t a drunk-and-disorderly we’re talking about. In fact, I’m all tapped out for favours getting you out of here and onto my crew. The rest,” he waggled the pad again, “is going to be strictly off the books.”

“Aren’t these exit interviews usually recorded?”

“Give me a little credit, Brute.”

“You’ll have to sweeten the deal.”

Skell looked surprised. “Really? You’re in jail and I’m dangling an officer posting on a starship in front of your big bent-arse nose, and I’m going to have to sweeten it?”

Drago leaned back in his seat and folded his arms. “You want me to bust someone out of prison,” he said, “presumably as a condition for my reinstatement. If I get caught, I’ll bounce straight past the drunk-tank and end up in the real deal.”

“Only if you get caught.”

“With the added drawback of ending up with you as a cellmate.”

“I’m an excellent cellmate.”

“So yeah, you’re going to have to sweeten it.”

Skelliglyph sucked in air through pursed lips, rocked back in his lazy lotus position, set the pad down between his feet, and put his hands on his knees. “Okay. W’Tan is signed on as XO. And you know who always comes tagging along when she takes a long-haul mission.”

“Ruel?” Drago frowned. “Lareth Ruel Ganon? I feel I ought to remind you, this is meant to be a sweetener. As in, an offering that generally makes an unpleasant prospect more palatable.”

“You’ll be Chief Tactical Officer,” Skell said in a tantalising tone. “You’ll outrank him by a couple of echelons, and even if he is doinking the XO, they’re Molren. She’d never play favourites. He could be right in the middle of doinking her, and if you busted him for breaching protocol she’d cosign the reprimand.”

“That’s even worse,” Drago replied patiently. “Punching a superior officer in the face is a heroic regulation breach. Punching a subordinate is…” he twisted his face in disgust. “It’s like rearranging an able’s ration pockets.”

“But he could-”

“And stop saying ‘doinking’.”

“Alright,” Skell said in exasperation. “I’ll arrange something. You’ll get your chance to give Ruel a whupping, without the shame of beating an underling.”

“Well now I’m just agog with curiosity,” Drago rumbled. “They call you the Machiavelli of space, but even I’m sort of looking forward to seeing how you ‘arrange‘ this one.”

“Machiavelli is consistently misunderstood and mischaracterised,” Skelliglyph complained. “He wasn’t a manipulative evil schemer. Anyone who calls me that is correct only by chance, and they’re actually trying to be insulting.”

“Can’t imagine what that must feel like.”

Skell laughed. “Touché,” he picked up his pad again. “So, are you in? Or do I put my mark on the other column?”

“So we bust this hardened criminal out of jail,” Barducci said. “Then what?”

“Then,” Skelliglyph replied airily, “I thought we’d steal a starship and go and see the galaxy.”

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Election Day

It was election day over here in Finland yesterday. Wasn’t my problem, since as a foreigner I am not allowed to vote in the big elections (the little local ones I can, though, and do), but Mrs. Hatboy went to work for the day in the voting spot, helping people get their votes in and then counting them all up in the end.

I understand it was a bit of a sad result, the Greens doing reasonably well but the Foriegner-Killin’ Bigot Nazi Moron party doing (once again) way better than they should in the 21st Century. Oh well. For me, it meant looking after Wump and Toop all day. Which was great, because I had help from my good buddy Z. He brought food. He brought equipment (although we ended up not quite daring to try the whittling, after just holding onto a rock proved too much to expect of poor Wump). He brought some sort of cider-and-beer thing that was really quite digestible. He carried groceries. He carried Toop. He watched Atlantis with Wump. I can’t really take credit for looking after things for the whole day, since Z was on the scene. He wrangled the kids, which gave me the chance to do a load of dishes and a load of laundry. Productivest day ever.

Wump, slightly sad.

He even spent half an hour swinging Wump on the swings while I fed Toop her lunch and got her into bed. And if Wump looks a little unimpressed here, yes – it is to do with the headgear.

We went for a good stroll in the forest and had a “picnic”, if you can call it a “picnic” if we just found a plastic chair and some rocks and sat on them and ate random pieces of fruit ‘n’ veg from a tupperware before Wump got impatient and started wandering off to play hide and seek.

"It's time for rope safety."

She learned a lot about rope safety too, which is funny because she had never had a safety harness while climbing in the forest before.

Then we went to the shops on the other side of the forest, and poor old Wump decided it would be a good idea to throw a rock. She later said she hadn’t wanted to throw the rock, which I had to amend to “hadn’t wanted to throw the rock straight up in the air and have it land on her own head”, which is what it did.

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She was very brave about it. Hey, my handkerchief was made in China.

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And it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Scalp wounds seldom are. But still, lots of blood.

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And see? She was fine!

After a delicious lunch, Toop woke up and Z headed off for the afternoon, and then Wump and Toop and I hung out a bit more and played with soap bubbles. Toop thought this was the most thrilling thing she had ever seen in the whole excitement-filled day, and got to crying in between each round of bubbles because she thought there would be no more bubbles.

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“Bring me all of the bubbles.”

Wump decided the bubbles were tasty.

07_bubbles

Almost didn’t need to give her dinner that night. Oh wait, yes I did.

After I’d shovelled another jar of spaghetti into Toop and put her in bed – where, exhausted, she slept the entire night through – I cooked a mess of chicken wings and potato wedges for Wump and myself, and Wump ate about three quarters of the wings. I had to microwave myself a curry just to make up the difference. Given how little she usually eats, this was shocking.

08_gorn

Head injuries evidently make you hungry. Also, the Gorn.

That was my election day. Hope all you Finns voted. And I hope all your foreigners did something worthwhile too.

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